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Shas leaders Deri, Yishai meet to mend fences

With rumors of split in ultra-Orthodox party swirling, sides patch up differences for first time since Ovadia Yosef’s death

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri (left) seen shaking hands with fellow Shas MK Eli Yishai, after a meeting in the Knesset aimed to heal their feud, October 30, 2013. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri (left) seen shaking hands with fellow Shas MK Eli Yishai, after a meeting in the Knesset aimed to heal their feud, October 30, 2013. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Two feuding senior Shas party politicians held a meeting designed at making amends on Wednesday.

Shas party leader MK Aryeh Deri met for half an hour with Eli Yishai, his predecessor at the helm of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, in the Shas faction’s room in the Knesset.

“It was a good meeting,” said Yishai. “We agreed to meet in the future, and we will do everything in order to work together and maintain the movement.”

Since the death of Shas’s founder and longtime leader, former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, earlier this month, Yishai and Deri have been at loggerheads.

Yishai, who chaired the party while Deri served out a prison sentence for embezzlement, was summarily ousted from the chairmanship earlier this year, several months after Deri launched a political comeback. Yishai retains the allegiance of a majority of the party’s MKs, and speculation is rife about a possible split in the party.

“I am for peace,” Deri reportedly told Yishai, “I’m not looking to be against you, fall into line, and your position in the movement will be preserved.”

Deri, Yishai and MK Ariel Attias were supposed to form a troika of party leadership after Deri rejoined the party, but most observers said Deri actually held the reins.

“All of the MKs enjoy full cooperation for everything they need,” Deri said. “That’s what will be between us. Trust builds trust, and the more trust you give, the more trust you will receive. I know there is a lot of ill-will around and people are trying to start fights, but I am looking for peace.”

The meetings followed Deri’s unprecedented public attack on Yishai Saturday night, saying he had refused to help promote Deri’s unsuccessful candidate for Jerusalem mayor, Moshe Lion.

“I turned to Eli Yishai and he decided he didn’t want to help,” Deri told Channel 2’s Meet the Press. “Eli Yishai was invited to [the ultra-Orthodox city] Elad, and he didn’t want to come. He was asked to speak and he refused to come.”

In his interview Saturday, Deri appealed directly to Yishai to remain in Shas.

“Eli, come with us,” he said. “Your home is with us; come work with us, together. Enough… It hurts Shas. There’s no doubt in my mind that reports about a split in Shas have harmed the party.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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